An easy vanilla cake recipe
A simple vanilla cake recipe is the perfect introductory cake for beginners, as well as a versatile standby for more experienced bakers to have on hand. While there’s a whole, huge, hypercalorific world of complicated cakes out there to explore, from red velvet cakes to lemon drizzle cakes, this easy cake recipe is where it all begins and it’s worth mastering so you can get the basics of cake making under your belt before you start to jazz it up with flavour additions and decorating finesse.
This is a cake recipe that works splendidly for birthdays, special occasions, or just that celebrated English ceremony, afternoon tea. We also believe that you never need a reason to make or eat a simple vanilla cake, so have it whenever the urge to bake takes you. It’s the most basic possible combination of eggs, flour, butter and sugar – practically the Platonic ideal of a cake – baked in the oven for 45-50 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when it’s golden on top, and a skewer inserted into its side comes out clean.
Once the cake has cooled, slather it with buttercream frosting, pile fruit on top of it, or simply dust it with icing sugar, and it’ll be delightful any way you choose to slice it. You could even turn it into a Victoria sponge by cutting it in half laterally once cool, adding a layer of jam and sticking it back together again – though we also have a very good Victoria sponge recipe to follow for more specific instructions.
If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, we have all sorts of cake recipes to try: we recommend moving on to our easy chocolate cake if you’re a fan of this cake, or chocolate fairy cakes make a nice treat and are fun for kids to make.
If you fantasise about being a star baker but find the whole process a little intimidating, this is the perfect easy cake for you. It’s infinitely variable and incredibly simple to make. Simply place all the ingredients in a bowl and beat until combined. You can mix with a wooden spoon, a hand-held electric mixer or by using the pulse action of a food processor, for varying levels of manual difficulty.
Using margarine rather than butter works really well for this cake and saves you the bother and time of having to soften the butter before you start.
Don’t be tempted to open the oven before 40 minutes – you’ll regret it.
Once the cake has cooled, put it in an airtight container and it can be stored for up to two days.
175g (6oz) margarine or softened butter
175g (6oz) caster sugar
3 large eggs
175g (6oz) self-raising flour, sifted
1tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
Heat the oven to 180°C (gas mark 4). Lightly grease an 18cm (7in) round cake tin with a little extra butter or margarine and cut a piece of greaseproof paper or non-stick baking parchment to fit the base of the tin.
Put all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon or a hand-held mixer for 1 minute, or until just combined. It’s important not to beat the batter too much – just long enough to make it smooth.
Pour or spoon the mixture into the tin, smooth the top and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 45-50 minutes. The cake is cooked when it looks well risen and golden; the top should spring back when lightly touched with a fingertip. Another test is to insert a skewer into the centre of the cake – it should come out clean.
Let the cake sit in the tin for 5 minutes, then gently run a knife around the edge and turn it out onto a wire rack to cool. Serve dusted with icing sugar.